Nightmare Affair swung wide into the stretch from well out of it for jockey Jeffrey Sanchez and ran down the leaders for an impressive two-length victory in the $500,000 Smile Sprint Handicap (gr. II) on Summit Speed day at Calder Race Course Saturday. Champion sprinter Lost in the Fog struggled home ninth as the 11-10 favorite.
The 5-year-old Nightmare Affair quickened late after drawing even with Pomeroy to win his fourth race in a row going away at odds of 14-1. Pomeroy, ridden by Eddie Castro, took second by 1 1/4 lengths over Weigelia and Jose Lezcano. The final time for the six-furlong Smile Sprint, which had a 13-horse field, was 1:10 2/5.
Trained by Manuel Azpurua for owner Ronald Borgese's Timber Side Stables, the Florida-bred gray son of Out of Place
--Beaux Arts (Black Tie Affair
) picked up his first graded stakes victory. He has earned nine of his 11 lifetime wins at Calder.
Azpurua said Nightmare Affair had physical problems earlier this year but has overcome those.
"I truly respected the good horses in this race, but my horse has been doing so well, training great," he said. "I felt very sure he would run a good race today, and he did. I'll have to talk to the owner, but I've got some ideas for him now. Maybe Saratoga -- we'll see."
California invader Lost in the Fog, last year's Eclipse champion sprinter, has now lost three of his last four starts and was hardly a factor Saturday while carrying 125 pounds, 10 more than the winner. He broke on top for Russell Baze from the 10-hole but fell back quickly while on the outside in mid-pack. He came under a ride on the turn when racing three wide but didn't respond.
"There was a lot to overcome with the 125 (pounds) and the trip, but if he finished second or third and ran well, you could understand," said trainer Greg Gilchrist, who won the Azalea Breeders' Cup (gr. III) earlier on the Summit of Speed card with Victorina. "But to run like this, we'll have to talk about his future. We'll get him back home and see if there is anything physical that comes out to explain this performance. We won't make any quick decisions."
Joey P. set a hot early pace (:21 3/5, :44 1/5) as Lost in the Fog struggled to stay close. Weigelia, running in second shortly after stumbling at the start, challenged for the lead in upper stretch and gained a short advantage near the furlong marker. He gave way as Pomeroy, who had the worst of the going on the outside, challenged late only to be passed by the surging Nightmare Affair.
"When I got him in the clear he was flying and I had a lot of confidence," said Sanchez. "At the quarter pole I could see Lost in the Fog was not going anywhere and I had plenty of horse."
Baze said he knew he was in trouble with the favorite.
"I sent him along down the backside just to try and go with the leaders, but they were going really fast," he said. "Around the turn I tried to go after them, but unless he was going to respond to the whip real good, we weren't going to catch them."
Bred by Sandra McKinney, Nightmare Affair paid $31.40, $10.80 and $6.20. Pomeroy returned $10.20 and $7.40. Weigelia was $8.40 to show.
Kelly's Landing finishing fourth followed by Mister Fotis, Joey P., Friendly Island, Gold Storm, Lost in the Fog, Universal Form, Chandtrue, B.B. Best and Gaff.